Because of the Southern hospitality indoctrinated in me, I begin by saying, “Thank you.” Thank you for inviting women to preach. Women preaching has been oppressed, overlooked and ignored. So, thank you for thinking of me, affirming my call and making space for me to use my gifts for proclamation.
Most likely, I will accept your invitation. My invitations are few, and it is hard for me to pass up any invitation to preach. However, may I invite you to go even further in your affirmation and invitation?
When you reach out to me to preach, make it an invitation. Do not remind me you are giving me an “opportunity” I do not often have. Make your invitation personal. Affirm my call, affirm my knowledge, affirm my experience, affirm my gifts. Invite me to be a part of the larger ministry of your church that encourages women in all aspects of ministry.
When you invite me to preach, please do not invite me to leftovers or only the Sundays usually set aside for women. I appreciate you thinking of me, but invitations limited to “holiday weekends” make me feel like you do not want to burden anyone else. And let’s be honest, they put me in a pulpit when fewer members are there to be a part of experiencing and affirming women preachers.
I love Baptist Women in Ministry’s advocacy month, but do you only want women in your pulpits once a year? And Mother’s Day (insert eye roll here)! Please do not equate my call to ministry to my ability to bear a child. As a woman, I know all too well the tensions and pain of Mother’s Day for women who do not choose to be mothers and women who struggle to become mothers. And when did Mother’s Day become a liturgical holiday anyway?
“Please do not equate my call to ministry to my ability to bear a child.”
Please, invite me to preach. Invite me more than once. Invite me to preach from my experience and expertise (which requires you to know that about me). Invite me to preach on the high and holy days. Open your pulpit to women on Easter and Advent. In inviting me to preach, you are affirming my call. In inviting me to preach, you are giving space for women preachers. In inviting me to preach, you are allowing church people to see and experience the reality of God’s call for all people.
And then, invite me, invite women to be a real part of your next pastor search. Do not limit us to associate ministry positions. Do not confine us to administration, children and music. Do not ask us to be content with the “opportunity” to serve.
We are tired. The women before us fought for us to be invited. And we have continued the fight to be fully included. We are called. We are educated. We are trained. We are prepared. Much of this is because of the fight of female ministers before us. Many times, we are more educated, more trained and more prepared than many of our male counterparts and still given “opportunities” but not full inclusion.
So, thank you for inviting me to preach, but please do not stop there.
Sarah Boberg is a minister who also happens to be a woman. She currently serves as program coordinator for the Boundary Spanning Theological Education program and adjunct instructor for Christian education at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and a master of divinity degree from Campbell, she earned a Ph.D. in educational studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her dissertation research focused on the call experiences of Baptist women in ministry. She also serves as minister of children at Ox Hill Baptist Church in Chantilly, Va.